Sunday, 2 October 2022

For King & Parliament ...or 'Tonight's the night, if you play your cards right...'

I missed most of the good hype around Simon Miller's 'To the Strongest' ancient rules, though I knew that a grid and cards were involved, so when the two Steves set up a game of 'For King and Parliament' - the ECW version, I just had to attend.

Also of course, Simon has looked at a late C17th version of this, so already, he has my attention..

Actually, just for contrast, these are some of Steve's 28mm Empress figures painted up - awesome...

The key take-aways from the game for me were:

  • As mentioned above - a few tweaks based on French doctrine and cavalry doctrine for the 1680-1690 period, and these rules allow me to do Boyne, Aughrim, Neerwinden, and even stretch to Marlburian battles - I believe. Just look at a map of Almanza for instance - it looks perfect for the gridded approach.

  • Everything operates off a grid. Now, that does create a a few issues with diagonal decisions and charges.
  • BUT more is solved via using a grid, than is made complex - i.e. delineation of terrain is simple; movement is simple; range is simple; arguing is mostly invalid, and my concerns about it all appearing 'too' linear were mostly disproved.
  • Ok , ok ...I'm a heretic - I didn't like the playing cards, and I prefer D10s ...I know, I know. 
  • D10s still work, and to my mind, give a nicer element of randomness when required, and are quicker in a large game.

And as Bruce used to say 'Tonight's the night, if you play your cards right!'
Time for a Brucey Bonus???

(I fully appreciate that this 1980s/90s British TV reference is so far off base for my American friends, that its relevance as a meme, joke or otherwise humourous skit, is about as useful as a fart in a space suit...)

The figures are all from the two Steves' excellent 15mm stuff.

The initial set-up

Those Rubbery Royalist forces

Those Pesky Parliamentarians

The first cards for activation go down - now a D10 can be used, and much debate over their pertinence, vs the 'passion' of using cards was discussed. Apparently the rules say I am a 'heretic' for preferring D10s ...oops

The chits are used to delineate dash (no of charges as horses get blown, which is a great mechanism) and fires (for cavalry it is literal, for infantry firing at full effect does wear down)

Cavalry clash on the Royalist right

Royalist infantry engages in the centre

The right would see an epic clash of horse all day

Now the cards aren't visually great looking, but they have their place. Again, I will playtest with D10s  and maybe use small cards for actual group games.

The Royalists are getting the better of the clash - Dutch style cavalry vs Swedish style cavalry - one is lithe, the other enduring...

It's all going off in the centre - the Royalists have seized the initiative

Guns pretty much sit when emplaced - a feature that we can use right into the early C18th.

By game end, the Parliamentarian left and centre had started to collapse.

There is a lot to like in these rules, and this style of play. I love the fact that I can transpose this to Grand Alliance / Nine Years War / even Marlburian - I believe, with relative ease.

It's a very different style of play, but I think one that really lends itself to a good game - the tactics are somewhat different - but the key to play is knowing 'when' to commit. That's probably a lot closer to the real decisions made at this time, in these periods, than we actually realise. 
More to come...


  1. Bruce Forsyth once told me to Bugger Off on Wentworth Golf Course. Three years later he tipped his hat to me when I let him out of the Egham council offices car park. The ups and downs of being a teenager in Virginia Water… Christmas will soon be here and you could get crackers with those little packs of cards in. Would look better on the table.

    1. A good point. The cards are a novelty I guess - but D10s seem so much simpler, without losing the beauty of the rules systems. I am a Philistine it would seem.
      As for Bruce, I have fond memories of watching 'The Generation Game', well before Play Your Cards Right - - I remember two things as a youngster - the fondue set...and Anthea Redfern...
      Actually, to be fair, I remember three things, and Anthea Redfern had two of them.

    2. Having only played once I did like the cards as they ‘seemed’ to generate a more even spread of results than dice (which hate me). As you need to record previous activation number for each unit for possible further actions something will have to be on table so cards seem slickest. Maybe use dice for shooting/melee if one really must be heretical :-)

    3. Yep - i totally get it...I still hate 'em.
      I would advocate putting the d10 on the table behind the unit though. It looks and feels better to me. Smaller cards are available which might change my mind - but I watched Steve draw 3 or 5 cards on occasion when 3 or 5 dice could have been rolled for a quicker, and probably more 'bell curvey' result, as the cards rely a lot on the shuffle.

    4. No chance of a cocked card :-)

    5. Only if I throw it like a ninja in a 1980s movie ;)

  2. FK&P and TtS! both provide engaging contests. They offer up fast-paced games with card play keeping games different with each playing.

    On the topic of cards vs D10s, a switch to D10s changes the nature of the game (and decision-making) and messes with the probabilities of the game engine. When using a deck of cards, your play uses sampling without replacement until a deck reshuffle. Using D10s, you always play using sampling with replacement. To very different beasts!

    1. Thanks Jon. Ahhh - yes, we talked about this. Now, Steve #1 pulled at least 4 aces during one of his runs, thus reducing their likelihood in the deck for pulls in that turn. Isn't it better to have the randomness of the D10 rather than sampling without replacement?
      Otherwise, a canny player could potentially seize an opportunity through knowing his aces are gone (mostly - as there were three decks' worth in there...) I don't know - the D10 does appeal.

  3. Darren I have to admit I love the look of the table with the 15mm. We played it in 28mm and the 15s give a better sense of mass.

    I'm in complete agreement with you on the D10s. I think the game would play very well with rolling D10s instead of using cards. I bought both for that purpose.

    1. Cheers Steve. Oh aye certainly. I do love the D10 idea too and will have to try. The 15mms do look fine. I must update this post with a pic of some of Steve's 28mms too though - they are pretty awesome, but I take your point re. the en masse thing.

  4. My son and I have played a number of very enjoyable games of FK&P. Not liking cards we use numbered chits, he for both orders and firing, but in my solo games I use D10 for the firing. It just seems a good compromise to me - working out the differences in odds between dice and chits would make my head hurt.

    1. Excellent advice aye - I do intend to expand into battles from 1670-1710 - so will try a number of solo games, and the D10 would make a lot of sense for me for multiple rolls. Chits would be a perfect solution for big games though...many thanks.

  5. HAHA I love it. You have reaffirmed my belief that every British game show is in fact based on an original 1970s US concept .
    Yes...Bruce was very much a British icon ;)

  6. As you probably know, I love these rules, and its ancestor, TTS! Indeed, I had a minor hand in playtesting FK&P. I personally like the cards; the need to track the last activation makes chits a better replacement, IMHO, at least for activations (you know Simon sells sets of chits cheap, right?).Nothing wrong with using dice instead, especially for combat. I think the cards are faster than dice; no rolling off the table, no cocked dice, no "Dice mojo" tricks. No matter what you do, the order and values of the cards is going to be unchanged! I also think a bit of card counting isn't a bad time - the outstanding generals of an era knew a lot was about timing!

    1. Peter, you have no concern that using D10s changes the probabilities and calculus of the game wrt cards? Personally, I like the cards too and would not consider using D10s as a substitute.

    2. It does change the probabilities to some degree, of course, but not enough that I think it matters a lot. In personally play all the way through each deck; that means that the distribution of numbers is exactly the same for both sides. Of course. a "10" played to start a turns action is a lot different from a "10" for a hit, or an extended actione sequence!

  7. TTS! and FK&P are both very comfortable for FoB/Piquet players as well; the victory medals (= morale points), the uncertainties, the potential for a wider distribution of probabilities. the importance of deciding when and where to act. Indeed. I have yet to ruin a game of either where a player disliked the rules, even if they were not necessarily their first choice.

    1. yes - I certainly get the parallels with FoB - probably why I liked the dynamic, and missed the dice.
      Ok, Ok, you guys have me convinced to try cards/chits (as well as dice) for the Williamite Wars conversion (which Steve is doing since I'm lazy ;) ). There's actually a good chance of us doing a battle in one of the museums this year, on one of the Irish battlefields - so these would be the rules of choice for that I think.

    2. TTS/FK&P is a great starter game, too. I am running a game this weekend at an area library for novice teen gamers.